US stocks wobble again as energy companies fall

FILE - This Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, file photo shows the New York Stock Exchange at sunset, in lower Manhattan. U.S. stock indexes were wavering between tiny gains and losses in early trading Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Losses among technology and consumer-focused companies offset gains by financial and health care stocks.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK - Technology and energy companies are skidding Friday while banks and insurance companies recover some of their recent losses, leaving U.S. stock indexes little changed overall. Credit monitoring company Equifax is plunging after it disclosed a data breach that affects 143 million Americans. Grocery stores and household goods companies fell as Kroger said stiff competition forced it to cut prices.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,462 as of 3:15 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 19 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 21,804. The Nasdaq composite fell 35 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 6,362. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 1 point, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,400. Stocks are on track to finish the week with a loss. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

DATA DISASTER: Equifax slumped in heavy trading after the credit monitoring company said a data breach exposed Social Security numbers and other information from 143 million Americans. It said the breach occurred between mid-May and July. Equifax shares tumbled $19.40, or 13.6 per cent, to $123.32. Competitor TransUnion fell $1.87, or 3.8 per cent, to $47.52 and Experian fell 0.7 per cent in London.

Data security companies rallied as investors expected more demand for their services. Symantec leaped $1.01, or 3.3 per cent, to $31.61 and FireEye rose 28 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $16.05.

EYE ON THE STORM: Hurricane Irma left at least 21 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and was spinning toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

While insurance companies made a small recovery Friday, investors expect steep losses from Irma as well as Hurricane Harvey. Reinsurance companies, which sell policies that cover catastrophic losses like those caused by storms and floods, are down about 10 per cent since early August.

On Friday Chubb rose $6.07, or 4.5 per cent, to $140.95 and XL Group regained $2.23, or 6.1 per cent, to $38.71.

THE QUOTE: Experts think the storms will slow down U.S. economic growth in the third quarter. While that's likely to be temporary, David Chalupnik, head of equities at Nuveen Asset Management, said the effect on the stock market could last for a while because it will be hard for investors to tell how much of any company's problems are caused by the weather.

"The next couple of months are going to be pretty cloudy," he said. He said insurance companies, cruise lines, and oil refiners based in the Gulf Coast or Southeast could take losses and bad debt at credit card companies will increase, and since the storm will push the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower for a bit longer, that will hurt banks by keeping interest rates low on loans.

GROCERY WOES: Grocery store chain Kroger said intense competition with Target and Wal-Mart forced it to cut prices in the second quarter, which hurt its profits. Making matters worse, after the quarter ended Amazon.com completed its purchase of Whole Foods and immediately cut prices on many items. Kroger didn't change its annual forecast, but that projection doesn't account for the hurricanes, which may hurt its sales.

Kroger dropped $1.73, or 7.6 per cent, to $21.04. Supervalu fell $1.35, or 6.4 per cent, to $19.74. Wal-Mart and Target, which also said it's cutting prices, took smaller losses.

TECH SLUMP: Information technology company Science Applications International came up short of Wall Street estimates in the second quarter and SAIC shares slid $12.93, or 17.3 per cent, to $61.73. Elsewhere, Apple shed $2.32, or 1.4 per cent, to $158.94. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices sank 41 cents, or 3.3 per cent, to $12.22 and Qualcomm fell 81 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to $49.57.

BONDS: Bond prices dipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 per cent from 2.05 per cent.

ENERGY: Energy companies fell as benchmark U.S. crude skidded $1.61, or 3.3 per cent, to $47.48 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 71 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $53.78 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline declined 1 cent to $1.65 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.77 a gallon. Natural gas sank 9 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold rose 90 cents to $1,351.20 an ounce. Silver added 1 cent to $18.12 an ounce. Copper retreated 10 cents, or 3.2 per cent, to $3.04 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 107.79 yen from 108.65 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.2028 from $1.2003.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: The German DAX picked up 0.1 per cent and the FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.3 per cent. In France, the CAC 40 declined less than 0.1 per cent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.6 per cent after the country's economic growth rate was reduced. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.1 per cent.

Mexico's Bolsa stock index fell 0.7 per cent after a powerful earthquake hit near the southern coast. At least 35 people were reported killed.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay

AP Business Writer Alex Veiga contributed to this story from Los Angeles.


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